What is Your TED Talk?

You would have to be living under a rock to not know about TED. This organization whose tag line is simply “ideas worth spreading” means to bring “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.”

Each talk is usually less than 20 minutes long. Most of you would never even notice they are that long, they are that good.

TED is a pretty cool idea and has gained such popularity that TED organizations have cropped up all around the world. But other than showcasing terrific presentations and speeches, the very idea of TED itself can be useful.

If you were asked to give a TED talk next week, what would you do? More importantly—what is your big TED idea? What idea would be the centerpiece of a talk you could give that would be considered riveting and brand you a remarkable person? Consider starting there next time you have to address your board of directors or even your boss.

Design your own TED talk.

Great TED talks:

Feel free to share your favorite TED talks here. Or, perhaps you’ve given one yourself. We’d love to hear it.

To Find Story Gold, You Have to Dig Through Some Dirt

As you can tell, I’ve been writing about the “origin story” quite a bit lately. This is an important tale to have in your story library. It gives context and usually reveals the passion behind your service and product offerings. But, there is an enemy in our midst when seeking the power in our origin story. It’s called perfectionism.

I was reminded of this enemy recently as I was reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott for, oh, the 15th time. (Quick tip: If you ever suffer from writer’s blog — even if you are just trying to write a news release or a very important memo — consider picking up this book. It works wonders. See link to it below.)

The problem with trying to write the perfect message, the perfect business narrative, the perfect story right away is this: You can’t do it. If you are trying to “get it right” straight out of the gate you will only immobilize your creativity. First drafts, reminds Anne Lamott, aren’t mean to be good. They are meant to get your started.

Perfectionism also is the enemy of getting the most out of your people.

When it comes to developing that elevator pitch, a corporate presentation, a nonprofit fundraising pitch or a talk, do you let your people play, dig, get messy and get it all wrong at first? If not, you may be leaving some valuable nuggets on the table. Here is a quick exercise for developing your origin story (or any other story or message) sans the perfectionism:

  1. Get everyone in the conference room (or the coffee shop).
  2. Tell everyone take a stab at your organization’s “once upon a time” story. Ask them to write down at least four sentences that describe how your organization or business started and why. Have them describe the moment it all came together that caused this enterprise to exist.
  3. Have them read their first drafts out loud.
  4. Identify the golden nuggets that tell the truth, show how you are different and are compelling to your audiences. They are there.

From this exercise, you not only will get your people on board to find the real gold for your origin story, but you’ll also help them understand where the organization or company has come from and why. You can do this with any of the stories that we recommend you have in your arsenal.

What is a Compelling Message Anyway?

When developing a powerful message, there are three elements to include:

  • A compelling angle
  • A differentiating point
  • A truthful and accurate account

The one characteristic where I have found most people spend the most time is “being compelling.” After all, it’s the fun part. It is the element where you get to boast about the importance of your product or service and how exciting you are.

But, what does “being compelling” mean?

Hint: It’s not necessarily being flashy or having to set yourself on fire. Granted, showmanship may count during the Super Bowl, but during a normal business day as your customers and potential clients seek help or something to fit their needs, they are looking for relevance.

Providing a compelling angle means you can hold the interest of a potential customer long enough for them to understand where you fit into their world. It also should hold their interest long enough for you to have a conversation with them.

For example, the tag line of Earth Justice, an environmental organization, is: Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer. Not only does this point you in the direction of what they do (truth and accuracy) and how they might differ from, say, the Sierra Club, this message gives you a sense of their energy and how they feel about their work. This message would be interesting to anyone who believes the planet could use an advocate.

Think about when Apple’s Steve Jobs announced the iPad. His story was to the point, calling the iPad the world’s thinnest notebook. It differentiated the product from heavier, bulkier computer laptops and, as he held it up, you could see he was being truthful. It was pretty darn thin. But, also, how compelling is it to believe you could actually fit something in your briefcase besides your computer? He knows his audience – they want efficiency. They want “light” and productivity. And, he knew what would compel them to learn more about this new product from the beginning.

How compelling are your messages?